Saturday, March 05, 2005


From Smith College's "Sophian"

Women in the Middle East and Afghanistan have been recently granted far more freedom, yielding immediate results and power to those who have been traditionally marginalized within their countries.

The new Iraqi Parliament is indicative of this exciting change. In order to smooth the transition of women into government, a quota was implemented which required one in four candidates to be a woman. While this quota was designed to ensure women a quarter of the seats in the parliament, Iraqis went above expectations by electing women into 86 of the 275 seats of the Parliament. Women will constitute approximately 31 percent of this new governmental system.

The political position of women in Afghanistan has also improved drastically. Women constituted 41 percent of all registered voters in the last election, representing an enormous triumph over their terrible conditions prior to the war. It is unfortunate that our incredible success in Afghanistan often goes unnoted, precisely because it has been such a smooth process.

Recently, in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal's election commission recommended that women be granted suffrage. Though this has not yet been confirmed, it is evidence that Middle Eastern countries now feel compelled toward equality for women. You can be sure that these leaders would not feel this pressure without the push of democracy and women's rights during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It would be naive to say that this is indicative of solid gender equality in these countries. But it is a step forward, and the first step must be taken before a destination is reached.

Though I am confident that no rational liberal would condemn these steps forward, they are unwilling to celebrate any action taken by the Bush administration. Liberals have been taught, and believe, that President Bush represents everything they are against, that he is stupid, and that everything he does is detrimental to our country and the world. How, then, can they reconcile their sense of justice in women's rights with an action taken by an "evil" administration?

The feminist silence over the conditions of women in the Middle East has been deafening. Liberals and feminists are hesitant, if not completely opposed, to the idea that the greater goal of equality might be reached through the abhorred medium of war. Liberals may never concede that the ends justify the means in Iraq. However, now that the actions of war appear to be nearing the end, we can, hopefully, appreciate the amazing final results of our involvement in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.


A national movement that supporters say protects college students from indoctrination by college professors but opponents say stifles debate made its way to Minnesota on Wednesday when two legislators proposed legislation that they call the "Academic Bill of Rights." Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, said their bill would require the state's publicly funded colleges and universities to adopt policies that would mandate that professors not use their classrooms to promote their personal political or ideological beliefs. It also says that students would not be punished for disagreeing with their instructors' politics.

While Bachmann, who has announced that she is a candidate for Congress, said the law would apply across the political spectrum, the focus nationally has been complaints from conservative students that left-wing professors have tried to use their classrooms to indoctrinate young minds with liberal propaganda.

At a morning news conference, speakers included students and professors who talked of feeling punished for their conservative views. No speakers complained about conservative instructors.

Lawmakers in 21 other states have introduced similar bills, part of a national movement spearheaded by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz. Horowitz spoke at the news conference, saying it was unprofessional for professors to impose their political ideologies on their students. "You don't go into a doctor's office and expect to get a political lecture or see on his office door cartoons bashing John Kerry or bashing George Bush," he said.

Critics of such measures, including the American Association of University Professors, have said the bills could stifle debate and questioned whether its supporters had ulterior motives, such as wanting more conservative professors. Michael Livingston, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he has heard the classroom horror stories anecdotally but believes they are rare occurrences at best. "I find this very puzzling because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Livingston said. "The purpose of college professors is to help students think. We help them by presenting divergent perspectives. Sometimes we believe those perspectives, but a lot of times we don't. We just need to present our students with perspectives so they can think them through and understand them."

(From the Minneapolis Star Tribune. See Here for a comment on the usual form of the Strib)

Tennessee: Bill of Rights for college students stirs debate: "A move to create a bill of rights for college students, protecting them from political or religious 'indoctrination' by faculty members, is part of a larger nationwide push by a conservative group. Bills filed in the state House and Senate are similar to legislation proposed in at least 20 states and based on ideals backed by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz. It's intended to 'uphold the presence of multisided academic debate on our campuses,' said Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, a sponsor of the House bill. 'Most campuses are very liberal, and professors are ashamedly not very open-minded toward our point of view,' he said. 'When somebody speaks up, a lot of times it ends up costing the student their grade.'"


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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